Bichon Frise

It's quite easy to be immediately drawn to the adorable, cheerful, fluffy white powder-puff that is the Bichon Frise. One look into those dark eyes and you may be hooked on this charming breed. If you decide to bring a Bichon into your life, you're likely to have a happy, well-tempered companion who will want to spend every moment with you, whether playing or snuggling.

Bichon Frisé
Original image by user bennylin0724 on Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0.
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Bichons are relatively easy to train, intelligent, and make excellent dogs for first-time dog owners. They possess the perfect balance of a small size, cuddly companionship, and an active adventurous pet. You may choose to spend your time with you Bichon on leisurely walks and cozy evenings at home, or instead, you may become involved in all types of active dogs sports. The enthusiastic Bichon can regularly be seen participating in obedience trials and agility competitions. Their versatility extends to other aspects of their personality, as well. They are equally as happy in an apartment as a large home and will likely enjoy the company of children and other pets. The Bichon Frise is a wonderful pet with few drawbacks. As long as you have the time for a high maintenance grooming routine, and are willing to accept that your Bichon may want to be close to you at all times and can develop separation anxiety when alone, the Bichon Frise may be the perfect dog for you.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Bichon Frise breed is also commonly known by the names Tenerife Dog ,Bichon Tenerife ,Bichon A Poil Frise, Purebred Bichon.

Popularity: Popular

Life expectancy: 12 - 15 years

Breed group: Non-Sporting Dogs (AKC), Toy Dogs (KC)

Size: Small

Male Female
Height 9 - 11 in 9 - 11 in
Weight 9 - 13 lbs 9 - 13 lbs


Colors: White

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Not a heavy shedder

Grooming requirements: Very high

Good with children: Yes

Good with other pets: Yes

Intelligence / Trainability: High

Exercise needs: Average

Tolerates being alone: Absolutely not

Hunting drive: High

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Extremely sensitive

Good for novice owners: Definitely

Hypoallergenic breed: Yes

Drooling: Very low

Barking: Occasional

General health: Good

Cost to keep: Average


There are differing theories as to the exact history of the Bichon Frise. Many believe that the Bichon descended from the Barbet, a medium-sized, woolly water dog, and that the word Bichon is derived from barbichon, which is the diminutive of the word barbet. The Barbichon family of dogs includes the Bichon Frise, the Bolgnese, the Coton de Tulear, the Havanese, and the Maltese. All originated in the Mediterranean and have a similar look and disposition.

There are records dating back to the 14th century that places the Bichon Frise in the hands of French Sailors after visiting the Canary Island of Tenerife. It's thought that Bichon Frise dogs had been taken there by traders who used the Phoenician trade route and that the Bichon Frise originally came from Italy. Some disagree with this hypothesis and maintain the Spanish sailors brought the dogs to Tenerife and Italian sailors returned them to Europe. They then found their way to France after France invaded Italy in the 1500s and brought the dogs home with them.

In Europe, Bichons were favored by royalty and nobility until the late 1800s, when they became less popular with the wealthy. During this period, the breed continued as circus dogs and even as guide dogs for the blind.

It was after World War I that the French became interested in the Bichon and established a breed standard. On October 18, 1934, the first Bichon Frise was admitted to the studbook of the French Kennel Club.

Bichons Frises were introduced to the United States in 1956. The breed became eligible to enter the AKC's Miscellaneous Class in September 1971 and was admitted to the American Kennel Club Studbook in October 1972. In April 1973, the breed became a member of the Non-Sporting Group. In 1975, the AKC recognized the Bichon Frise Club of America.


The adorable Bichon Frise is a merry little dog, easily recognized by it's white powder-puff coat.
Typical characteristics are:

  • A soft, inquisitive expression, round, black or dark brown eyes, drop ears.

  • A small but strudy body.

  • The plumed tail curves gracefully over the back.

  • A double coat with soft, dense undercoat and a coarser, curlier outer coat.

  • Color: all white but may have shadings of buff, cream, or apricot around the ears or on the body.



Bichons are generally intelligent, and can quickly grasp basic commands. As with many small dogs, housebreaking can be difficult, so crate training is recommended. Because of their happy, affectionate, and generally easy-going nature, Bichons are very good dogs for novice owners. However, they can have an independent streak and benefit from obedience training early on.

As intelligent dogs, Bichon Frises will need an outlet for their intelligence and energy. Playtime and walks will help prevent your dog from acting out in undesirable ways like chewing, barking, etc.


Though Bichons are wonderful companions, they also require a decent amount of exercise. A long walk or a good play session daily is enough to keep your Bichon Frise healthy and happy.

Provide daily play sessions, these intelligent dogs need some kind of mental stimulation to be really happy. Learning small tricks or performing in agility or obedience will help keep these little attention seekers happy and content.

Special attention should be given to puppies. Avoid jumping up and down furniture and running up and down the stairs, as their bones and joints are still growing and too much exercise can induce problems later on.


Bichons are companion animals and they require attention from their owners. They are happiest if they can spend all of their time alongside their family. They will not thrive in situations where they must spend long periods of time on their own. Bichons are often so attached to their families that they develop separation anxiety.


A Bichon Frise will bark at strangers and can a be decent "alert" dog. They will warm up to strangers quite quickly and because of their small size, they are not suitable guard dogs.

Living Conditions

As they don't require a big yard for exercise or a large space to live, Bichons make excellent apartment dogs. However, they will be just as happy in a larger home. Bichons are indoor dogs and need a safe, comfortable inside space where they can be close to their family.

Children and Other Pets

Bichons are excellent family dogs and live comfortably alongside children as gentle companions and snugglers. However, due to their small size, care should be taken so that a child does not accidentally injure the dog. They should never carry the dog, as they could accidentally drop it. That said, extra care should be taken, especially with young children (under the age of 6).

  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

No dog, regardless of breed, should be left unattended with young children.

In general, Bichons get along very well with other dogs and pets, especially if they are properly socialized as puppies.


The average life expectancy of a Bichon Frise is between 12 - 15 years. Like all breeds, the Bichon Frise is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Bichon Frise is prone to these diseases:
  • Juvenile Cataracts (hereditary)
  • Allergies (hereditary)
  • Bladder Problems (hereditary)
  • Vaccination Sensitivity (hereditary)
  • Canine Hip Dysplasia (hereditary) : Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a very common genetic orthopedic trait, which is affected by environmental and dietary factors. Canine hip dysplasia occurs when there is an abnormality in the development of the hip joint. More info»
  • Patellar Luxation (hereditary) : Patellar luxation is a very common orthopedic disorder in dogs. A patellar luxation occurs when a dog’s kneecap (patella) is dislocated or slips out of its normal position. More info»


Bichons are known for being non-shedding dogs, but that isn't entirely accurate. They are definitely low-shedders, but that is because the shed hair becomes caught up in their undercoat. Because of this, Bichons require regular brushing to remove dead hair and mats. Improperly groomed Bichons are prone to skin issues. Your Bichon will need to be brushed several times per week and bathed regularly using a pH balanced shampoo designed for dogs. Be sure to remove any mats prior to bathing; once a Bichon gets wet, the mats can be incredibly difficult to remove. Wipe the area around the eyes daily to prevent tear stains. Regular grooming and trimming by a professional are recommended to keep your Bichon in the best condition.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness, or a foul smell that could indicate an infection and cleaned when needed with ear cleaning fluid.

Bichons don't usually wear their nails down on their own. Long nails will require regular clipping and all puppies should be introduced to nail clipping early on so that it will be easier when they are older.

Like many small breeds, Bichons are prone to dental problems. They tend to form a lot of plaque on their teeth. If you don’t brush their teeth regularly, the plaque becomes tartar which can lead to tooth problems, at a very young age. Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and adapted dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.


1/2 to 1.5 cups of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less.

Special attention is needed when feeding puppies. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a burden but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.

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